For expeditions 2016, grade 10 went to Niigata for hiking and camping, Okinawa for diving, or Hiroshima for a cultural tour. I chose to go to Niigata because although my family and I go to Niigata often for skiing, we never go there for hiking. Therefore, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something new that I would probably not do if it weren’t for expeditions.
On the first day at Mountain Park, a ski resort in Niigata, we had orientation, did group activities, and got ready for the 2 nights-and-3 days hike. We were told to not bring our phones, which we usually frequently use, to the hike. Although I was a little reluctant to leave our phones at first, surprisingly, I was able to adapt to the situation easily without any concerns. Every day was fulfilling, as it was filled with activities and beautiful sceneries, and I realized that not having our phones by our side enabled us to enjoy the scenery and our time with friends to the maximum extent because we were not occupied in using our phones. I believe that it would have been different if we had them because we would probably have been busy taking photos and using our social medias, which is what usually happens when we have our phones, instead of having man-to-man conversations and enjoying the sceneries with our peers.
Furthermore, we were also asked to decide on our roles for the hike. On the first day of hiking, I was the time keeper, who keeps track of the time we arrive at certain points. The difficulty of this role was having to keep on reminding myself to record the time because often after the arduous paths, I was very exhausted that I forgot to check and record the time. It was also difficult to stop at paths, where it was narrow or unstable, and to keep up with the boys in our groups, who had more stamina, to ask them to stop at certain points for rests and recording the time. In order to not forget to check and record the time, I asked a few of my friends to remind me regularly. They sometimes even helped me out by taking out the notebook and pen from my bag for me, as it was not easy to take them out from a gigantic bag stuffed with many things, in a short amount of time and without bumping my bag into someone. It was especially helpful in steep, unstable, and wet paths. I realized how asking for help can help me very much mentally and physically and also prevent accidents, such as bumping my big bag to others and making them lose balance, which can lead to a serious injury. I also learned that it is important to be aware of my surroundings in order for myself and my peers to stay safe, although it can be harder since we may be very tired to have the ease to do so. From this experience, I learned to consider how I organize my things and pack, depending on how frequently I would use the object and when I would use it. For example, towards the end, I made sure to put notebooks, pens, and snacks in the small pocket where it was easily accessible so that I didn’t have to swing my bag and bump into others.
During the hike, other than fulfilling our roles, it was essential to care for each other, especially towards the end of the long hike. Towards the end, we found the path especially more tiring due to fatigue. This lead to the group separating into groups: the faster group and the slower. For example, although our group was usually together on Day 1, there were times when we separated on Day 2. However, we managed to come back as a group again and finish as a group by encouraging each other and pushing ourselves to keep on going.
After dinner on Day 2, we were told that there would be an optional short hike on next day morning to see the sunrise. Despite the fact that we had to wake up early and the path was still wet, I chose to go because it was a great opportunity to do something new and because I did not want to regret it afterward. We woke up at 5 a.m. on the next morning, and although we were unable to see the sunrise due to the thick fog, I felt proud of myself for being a risk-taker and for choosing the more challenging option.
In addition to being a risk-taker, I had to push myself and maintain a positive mind in order to keep on going during the hike. For example, when there were many slippery, steep hills, I tried to overcome my fear and worry by encouraging myself that it is not dangerous and that I would be able to do it. I also tried to keep a positive mindset by thinking that if I finish the hills, I could take a rest or would have a stable, wide path. Furthermore, my peers also encouraged me and helped me complete the trail. Watching my friends also trying hard gave me the strength to push myself harder and keep up with the group. Additionally, I really appreciated when my peers told me about the slippery places because I was able to pay more attention and be careful.
Overall, although the hike was very tiring and challenging, I really enjoyed working together with my peers and seeing the beautiful sceneries every day. It was a great and new experience for me, as it enabled me to learn many new things that I could apply in different situations. As an example, through this hiking expedition, I learned that when packing, putting the heaviest things at the top makes the bag feel lighter, as the center of gravity focuses on the hip. I could apply this knowledge not only when I go hiking again but also when I go traveling or have to carry heavy, stuffed bags. Another thing I learned was to adapt to unexpected situations, such as the sudden changes in the weather in the mountains. For example, after I experienced how it can become very chilly or rainy suddenly, I made sure to pack a jacket and a raincoat at the very top so that I was able to take them out easily whenever I needed to.